The origins of the Cadre Noir : a first generation of civilian ecuyers

If the wars of the Revolution and the Empire confirmed the legendary bravery of the French cavalry, they also revealed a lack of equestrian training. The troops were destroyed by contagious illness, the ferocity of combat, and the poor quality of the military equitation of the time. The French cavalry was decimated after the Napoleonic wars. In 1815 a Cavalry school was created in Saumur to reform the mounted troops and to standardize the use of the horse in war. Faced with the urgency of retraining riders and horses, a body of instructors was set up, made up of several great civilian riding masters, out of the Manèges of Versailles, the Tuileries and Saint-Germain. Considered the elite of the period, they trained the officer pupils of the cavalry : In 1825, it was the birth of the Cadre Noir of Saumur.

However at the beginning of the XXth century when the cavalry became mechanized (tanks and planes having gradually replaced horses on the battlefield) the question was raised of the usefulness of the Cadre Noir at the heart of the army. The government of the time could not bring itself to eliminate something which had become a real living heritage for France with the passage of time.

A spectacular increase in riding for pleasure in the 70’s saw the creation of innumerable equestrian centres. The creation of the National Riding School was aimed at organizing the teaching of riding in France; its vocation to prepare for high level teaching diplomas and top level competition.. The National Riding School was created by decree in 1972 under the charge of the Minister for Sport. The knowledge and expertise of the ecuyers of the Cadre Noir naturally formed the basis of the school, and in becoming the main body of instruction gave life to their traditions : to teach riding adapted to the period, yesterday military, today sport, and to train horses. In this way the Cadre Noir passed from military to civilian.




True pioneer of the French riding school, Antoine de Pluvinel led the evolution of the equestrian techniques used in Italy at the end of the 19th century.


Antoine de Pluvinel was born in the town of Crest in 1555, in the Valentinois region.

A the age of about 10 he was sent to Naples in Italy, where he worked under the direction of Giovanni Pignatelli until 1571 or 1572. He then returned to France to study under M. de Sourdis, first riding master to Charles IX, before becoming the first riding master to the Duc of Anjou and brother of the king, (who would later becomme Henri III).

He accompanied the prince to Poland where he came to the throne in 1573, and was one of the three gentlemen who accompanied him on horseback from Cracovie to Paris to take the throne after the death of Charles IX. When Henry IV succeeded his cousin to the throne in 1589, Pluvinel continued in his post.

In 1594 Antoine de Pluvinel was given permission to set up an Adademy in Paris close to the Grand Stables, on the site of the current Place de Pyramides, under the patronage of the knight of Saint Antoine, his old friend from Naples.

Antoine de Pluvinel died on the 24 August 1620 without having published the work he has written. The first edition of Le Manege Royal came out in 1623. A second version was produced thanks to his friend René Menou de Charnizay, ‘Instruction of the king in the exercise of horse riding’. The two versions were beautifully illustrated by Crispin de Pas; and have been reissued and translated many times.

Pluvinel’s distinguishing feature was his use of praise, careful use of the aids, and softer bits with jointed mouthpieces; to get the horse to work with him, not to use force. He suppled his horse around a single pillar, asking him to move his hindquartes either inside or outside of the circle, before teaching him to take the weight on his hindquarters in the double pillars.

His theories include that the horse must take pleasure in work, due to gentle, understanding riding, and that such a horse will move much more gracefully if he enjoys being ridden.


His teaching differs from his Italian masters by two fundamental principles:

  • The psychology of the horse should not be ignored
  • The horse should be considered as a sensitive and intelligent being

He states that each horse has his own characteristics, faults and qualities; in a word: a personality. His main concern is the well-being of the horse.

Thanks to him, certain brutal methods of the Italian school were stopped. He recommends discrete aids, gentle methods, soft bits, with jointed mouthpieces, together with the suppling of the horse a work on two tracks. Artificial aids are as a complement only. He advocates a classical position’s stomach forward, long legs, heels turned towards the outside.

Pluvinel recommends never to turn towards physical abuse of the horse, but to treat them strictly and with discipline, never losing confidence in the superiority of man. Kindness overrules severity.

Pluvinel used the training pillars to supple the horse, firstly without rider and without saddle, then with a saddle but no rider. When the work between two pillars was perfect he intervened to encourage the horse to sit on his hindquarters. The pillars are still used today at the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Pluvinel could be considered the father of modern riding, or the last of the traditional riding masters, in as much as he instigated the evolution of the old shcool of riding for warriors towards a more pleasurable style. His book describes jousting great detail, which died with Henri II, and was replaced by the carrousels.

The teaching of Antoine de Pluvinel would be adopted, perfected and softened by François Robichon de la Guérinière.



in the time of Louis XV who taught in the Manège des Tuileries. His book « Ecole de Cavalerie » was published in 1731 and remains an essential work of reference.


Born in 1688 in Essay (France, near Alençon), La Guérinière spent most of his early years in Normandy. Although his brother Pierre des Brosses de La Guérinière directed the Académie d’équitation in Caen (originally established by another French master, Antoine de Pluvinel, in 1594), Guérinière’s most influencial instructor was M. Vendeuil.

In 1715, La Guérinière received his diploma as an « écuyer du roi » (« king’s ecuyer ») and he began as a director of an equestrian academy in Paris, a position which he held for 15 years and which earned him an excellent reputation as an instructor and rider. This led to an appointment by the Grand écuyer de France, Prince Charles of Lorraine, as Directeur du Manège des Tuileries in 1730. He held this position of Equerry to Louis XIV until his death in 1751.


La Guérinière is credited for the invention of the shoulder-in, which he called the « alpha and omega of all exercices », having been the first to describe it. His famous book « L’Ecole de Cavalerie » (The School of Horsemanship), which was published in parts between 1729 and 1731, and as a complete work in 1733, is one of the most important books on the training of the horses ever written, detailing equitation, veterinary treatment, and general horsemanship. This book has become the most important text of the famous Spanish Riding School, and much of their everyday training is based upon it.

Most of his exercises were to increase the horse’s suppleness and balance, and he had a progressive schooling system to reach an overall goal: a light, obedient, calm horse that was a pleasure to ride.

In his book, « Ecole de Cavalerie » (Paris, 1733), La Guérinière stresses using few aids and punishments while riding. He also comments greatly on the use of the shoulder-in at all gaits, including the gallop. La Guérinière states the rider must also have a good seat in order to have a soft, light hand, and makes several references to William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle.

The Count d’Aure taught a natural and instinctive style of riding at Saumur.


Famous French riding master, 1799-1863. Antoine Henri Philippe Léon Cartier d’Aure was born in Toulouse, southwest France.

Sub lieutenant in 1815, he entered the Bodyguard and was sent to the Manège of Versailles, where his aptitude was recognized by the famous d’Abzac, chief ecuyer of the King’s Stables.

In 1817, he was appointed ecuyer cavalcadour to Louis XVIIIth. In 1830, he resigned and founded an arena in Paris which became well known. He added a stable of horses for sale and a riding circle.

Viscount d’Aure’s goal was to make known French breeding. In 1847 he was appointed Chief Ecuyer at Saumur, and in 1855 commander of Napoleon III’s stables, then the Emperor’s Ecuyer, and finally in 1861 general Inspector of Studs. During his stays at Saumur he remained faithful to his principles and advocated riding outdoors, still practicing and teaching the principles of classical riding, and developed school work and encouraged hunting and racing. His set a legendary example with his enthusiasm, energy and boldness.

He was certainly one of the celebrated riding masters of his century, but he taught more by example than by a clear expression of his doctrine and principles.

François Baucher (1796 – 1873) was a french riding master of the XIX century. His great principles based on the search for perfection and lightness remain with us today.


French riding master born in Versailles in 1796 and died in Paris in 1873. At the age of 14 he joined one of his uncles, riding master of the prince Borghèse, in Turin. With the fall of the empire he returned to France to carry on his profession in Le Have and Rouen. He became partner with Jules Pellier around 1834 and settled in Paris.

He acquired a great reputation by presenting extremely well trained horses in public, in the Champs-Elysées circus between 1838 and 1848. The method had still not penetrated the army except by a few islated officers. General Oudinot sent the commandant de Novital, Chief ecuyer at Saumur, to Paris, then 26 cavalry officers to train with Baucher. Finally, Baucher went to Saumur in 1843.

His method was taught at Saumur with the encouragement of commandant de Novital. However the application of this method in the army was forbidden after an unfavourable report by a commission of the War Ministry. The teaching of Baucher remained popular, until the chandelier of the circus fell on him in 1855 while he was preparing to ride. He never performed in public again, but each morning continued his direction of horse training and instruction of the ecuyers.

Few men have been as violently opposed as Baucher. Perhaps because he was an innovator, because of the respect held for the old masters and their doctrines by great men such as Count d’Aure, Aubert and others.

Towards the end of his career he introduced a number of improvements into his method, always with the aim of achieving his ideals.

Baucher was a true innovator. To this day, the traditions he left us are the basis for informed riding and reasoned horse training in France and abroad. The methods he put into place are often called the Baucher’s method, or system.

By combining the principles of François Baucher and the Count d’Aure with his opposing ideals, General Alexis L’Hotte created the Saumur doctrine « forward, calm, straight ».


The Général l’Hotte, chief ecuyer from 1864 to 1870, rode Laruns. French equitation was enriched by his original style.

General of the French division (cavalry), from 1825 to 1904. His biography « A Cavalry Officer » was published in 1905 after his death by his nephews. He was appointed chief ecuyer of the Cavalry School Manège, Saumur, in 1864, and returned to Saumur as general commandant of the Cavalry School in 1875.

L’Hotte was probably the best of all the masters in, even superior to his master Baucher, in classical riding, but did not teach this method. He remained true to his military background.

The General’s memoirs contain a brilliant study of his 2 masters d’Aure & Baucher; the comparison of two methods of teaching could not have been expressed better.

« Questions Equestres » was published in 1906 and in his testament as a riding master. He explains the principles of the two masters and succeeds in expressing a doctrine on which the principles of French equitation are based. The Cadre Noir practices this doctrine founded on the suppleness of the horse.